A Mama in the Villa, By Nasiru Suwaid

Nasiru Suwaid

Testimonies in places of worship, just like the ones given in the courtrooms, create an opportunity for the strategic unburdening of the soul, with the necessary proclamation of pure truth.

Perhaps it is because of this fact that the speech by the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, at a thanksgiving mass on Sunday 17th of February 2013, retrieves the debate on the believability of the presidential information management team, to the front burner, as well as to the moral standing of the administration itself among the generality of the citizenry.

The wife of the president, while thanking God for her life, admitted her sojourn to the Horst Schmidt Klinik in Germany, narrating how she had several clinical surgeries, and the shocking claim that she passed out for more than a week. Indeed, by her own admission, her doctors lost hope on her, until the miracle of her recovery that could only be attributed to the good lord himself.

She gave credit to the power of prayers for her full recovery, recalling sessions undertaken by a small circle of close relations, who were in the know of her precarious situation.

Meanwhile, around the time the first lady was undergoing these demanding trials and tribulations, the information fed to the generality of the Nigerian public was to the effect that the matron of Aso Villa was only on a vacation, resting after a hectic schedule of hosting the African First Ladies Mission.

In fact, while the likes of Reuben Abati and Doyin Okupe dithered for a while, before coming out to deny her hospitalisation, Mr. Ayo Osinlu, her personal media aide, vehemently rejected the ascription of ill health, to a woman he said was on a sightseeing trip to the insightful wonders of Deutschland.

Where were our presidential pressmen? What happened to their moral complexion?  If they accepted her confessions as a modern day Lazarus, rising from the dead, they could at least have engineered a strong reconstruction of the past event to obfuscate the fact, so that what actually happened in Germany, would not threaten to throw the presidency into disrepute. Unfortunately, mum was the word from the villa at Abuja.

Was it not before our very eyes that this same media deployed the best of their craft to the presumed demystification of a previous president? True, the scales are a bit different in this case, but the office of the first lady, remains one of the most powerful offices in the land, regardless of the fact that it exists without any basis in the constitution of the country. What is important is that it is expected to keep the first lady positively engaged as a way of keeping the nation’s leader happy at the home front.

Thus, in many nations, presidential spouses are enabled with a pet humanitarian project, expecting that they use the opportunity of appearances to animate the public stage, projecting their image and persona into the psyche of the citizenry.

The unfortunate slide, and misinterpretation of these roles in many situations, especially into a cult of fashionista, is not necessarily a Nigerian factor.

There are those who will argue that there is a correlation between the seriousness of the first lady’s role and the presidential example that inspires it.  For the likes of President Barack Obama or Prime Minister David Cameron, their central challenge, while in office, appear to be a dedication to good governance, provision of adequate infrastructure, stable economy and efficient justice system. One will expect, logically that their spouses are equally so engaged.

Whatever way we look at it though, one thing is incontestable in this oddly intensive human drama, at least to individuals like me, is her assertion that except for prayers, we won’t be having a hale and hearty Mama in Abuja today.

Mr. Suwaid is a Kano-based layer.

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